This is the last week of my July sabbatical but I hope you’ve been enjoying our guest posts. Don’t forget that my new podcast is available: Relationship Truth Unfiltered and each week we release a new episode.
This week’s question is answered by Coach LeAnne. LeAnne is an amazing coach and woman of God. She is someone who is continually challenging herself with “how do I live this truth in real time?”
I believe she will give you some things to think about in her answer to this week’s question. It’s so easy to want help or answers on how we change our spouse. Yet, the only power we truly have is to change our own selves. LeAnne gives us something to work on, even when our spouse continues to be blind to his own changes.
I feel very confused and lost in my marriage. We've been married for 17 years and it's been difficult. There is no physical or verbal abuse. But my husband has always had a short fuse and explodes easily over little things. He's a blamer and very negative. He is a controlling black-and-white thinker and I've never felt ‘heard' when we disagree on a family decision. It's generally his way and even if I agree in the end, I'm resentful because I was still bullied into the final decision. Recently we started seeing a different Christian counselor (we've been in the past but it didn't help). This counselor has been great and really has seen to the core of my spouse rather quickly. The counselor calls my husband out and to the table, requiring him to own his stuff. This is good news but I still feel anxious. If my husband is going to counseling and somewhat ‘trying,' then I guess I should stay. We do have multiple children and a child with a significant disability. I want to be free from this marriage but feel like I don't have a strong Biblical justification. And I feel guilty because of my children (if I initiated a separation). At the same time, doesn't God want us to be in healthy, Christ-honoring marriages? My gut says, my husband can probably make a few changes, in the short term, but never to the point where this could be a loving partnership. What is the Godly way to handle this situation?
Thank you so much for your questions. There are many layers here to unpack. 17 years is a long time to live in a difficult marriage. You mentioned that there is no verbal or physical abuse happening in your home. As I read and reread your question and background information, I can’t help but notice that your emotional well-being is being compromised in various ways. First, by his short fuse and being quick to become angry, second, by not honoring your ideas and the fact that you feel bullied into making decisions. If this has been the pattern for 17 years dear one, I would call this verbal violence. From the tone of your note, the blaming and negativity have taken a toll on you, and perhaps your children. Blame is often a shield we humans raise to protect the ego. Please do not assume the blame for the blame- remember, the blamer does not always tell the truth. The fact that you are feeling anxious and guilty and conflicted in your next best steps, tells me that it is time for some CORE Strength work. You will also need a good support system. Add to that an abundance of grace and truth having no expectations at all of a meaningful relationship or a mutual healthy give and take with your husband. At least for now.
I am encouraged to hear that your counselor is not afraid to call a spade a spade and ask for continued accountability. A craving for admiration, an attitude of entitlement, and a lack of empathy for anyone else’s needs are indeed three big red flags. For there to be significant changes in your husband’s character, he will have to come to the conclusion that the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change. A person will not change or mature if they do not want to change or grow.
In order to live with someone like this you will need to learn to lean hard into God’s loving grace, knowing that when your husband doesn’t treat you well or love you like you wished he did, you are still deeply loved and valued by God.
God does want you to be healthy. You do not have a healthy marriage right now. You may never have a loving relationship with him. So where do you go from here?
I have found great comfort in continually returning scripture. This is the only place truth is found. I encourage you to turn to Micah 6.
Micah, just like you dear one, genuinely wants to know what God requires. How to navigate the hard in healthy and Godly ways. We can ask, What are we to offer our relationships? How are we to restore sanity during relationship chaos? To Honor you God, should we bring offerings, sacrifices, the perfect script, our firstborn. (Micah 6:7) God responds to Micah as He does to us: “No, not your gifts, your words or even your most prized possession. I want you to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with me.”
God continues to speak to His people about what we are to do in the face of injustice. And who we are to BE. The response of God to Micah, is His response to us when we ask what is required of us in the hard. Instead of focusing on what we cannot do, turn our eyes to what can we do? The Lord reminds us that we know what to do. Even if sometimes we forget. We can push the pause button, we can notice our thoughts and emotions, and we can choose our responses.
Micah helps us focus when pain is present, and stress is on the rise. God says, Do justice. Justice is defined as the quality of being just. It is righteousness, equitableness, and integrous. To be just is a call to action—not to be silent or complacent when others, especially the most vulnerable, are abused, mistreated, in need, scorned or exploited. In other words, there is no time like the present to develop and grow your Core Strength. A Hebrew word sometimes translated as “just” is tsedaqah, which expresses the idea of honesty, justness, and loyalty. To be biblically righteous is to be biblically just and vice versa. These two ideas cannot be separated.
To love mercy is to show “hesed,” covenant faithfulness to one another. Micah 7:18 says God delights to show covenant faithfulness. It’s who He is. Only because He has shown us great mercy can we do the same for others. We can practice justice mercifully, and gracefully. We can practice mercy gracefully and justly. When you see and experience poor impulse control, erratic decisions, and one-sided thinking, in your spouse you have the opportunity to unpack the truth, and respond with justice, grace, and mercy, as God has shown us justice, grace, and mercy.
To walk humbly. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of humility. The extravagant mercy and grace of God met justice at the cross in the humility of Christ, who gave His very life for our salvation. We have the model in Jesus as well as the call and command to walk humbly, with God. However, to do justice and love mercy as God does, is not within our own power. We humbly ask the Lord to help us, empower us, lead us, and equip us.
[Tweet “Admitting to God that we cannot do it on our own is a great first step.”] God encourages us to Be humble. sets our feet on the pathway to peace.
Schedule some alone time with God. Grab your Bible, a Pen, and a Journal, and Ready your heart to Pray. It’s as simple as A.B.C. Admit. Be Real. Cry out. Open your heart to Him, Walk into that kind of vulnerability, with God. He can handle it. You are safe with Him. It may not be easy, yet it is the road God calls us to walk.
God sees how much you give whether your husband notices or appreciates it. Pursue His eternal perspective on your marital loneliness and suffering because you may feel unheard, unseen, unloved, and undervalued much of the time. Guard your heart against bitterness, it could become a stronghold.
You will need the grace to respond to him in a God-honoring way. And mercy to not have contempt for him as a man or as a person. When communication is cradled in contempt, it can be so cruel.
Micah 6:8 is a call to
1. Listen to God.
2. Obey Him: take ownership and responsibility for our wellbeing, and stop enabling the abusive behavior to continue.
3. To do justice, to do what is right.
4. Walk Humbly. Allow your steps to be graced with a heart of mercy, and marked by the humility of Christ.
O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what He requires of you:
To act justly, (do what is right) and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
You will need God’s grace to continually forgive your husband and keep a clean slate of the wrongs he does against you so that you don’t become hardened by normal anger, bitterness, and resentment that you may feel. You may even be tempted to give your husband the benefit of the doubt, especially when you are tired, worn down, or depleted. Your husband may never apologize or take responsibility for his wrongdoings, which can make it challenging to forgive and let things go. Therefore, your strength must come from outside yourself. It can only be from God. He can and He will build your inner strength as you pursue truth.
You will also need to stay focused on God’s truth to stay healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. Your husband blames and shames and it’s tempting to believe his harsh words. Don’t do it. Don’t assume the blame for the blame. Blame is often the shield he will hold up to protect his ego and defend his ugly behavior. It’ll take work but you can refuse to take responsibility for his accusations. The fruit- his blaming will have less power over you and offers him the opportunity to sit with his discomfort.
Listen to what God says about who you are and not your husband’s words. You will need a healthy dose of God’s truth to explain to yourself and even your kiddos that sometimes their father acts selfishly and it’s not wrong of them to say “no” or to ask him to consider their needs, and not just think of his own (Philippians 2:4).
The Truth will help you know when boundaries are important and how to set them. For example, when he begins his angry rants, you might stop talking, turn around, and walk away. If he continues, leave the house. When you return you can say something like, “I can’t listen to you when you yell at me.” Keep it short and simple. Or “I don’t want to feel angry and bitter toward you so I’m leaving until you can cool down.” Then do it. Follow through with a consequence to your boundary.
You will also need truth to guide you on when to confront your husband’s sinful behavior and how to speak up. There may be a strategic or teachable moment where you could say something that may cause him to press pause and think about his actions and you want to look for those moments and ask God to give you anointed words.
Speaking the truth in love to one another takes planning, practice, and prayer. It is tempting to either placate this kind of person or eventually get sick of it and blow up, only to later feel guilty, regretting your reaction which only adds more fuel to his fire of blaming. [Tweet “Hard words need not be harsh words.”]
For example, when he’s inconsiderate of your needs or your desires for the family, you could say, “I know this is important to you, I hear you. There are some things I would like to share with you that are important to me as well. Would you be open to sharing a conversation where both of our wants and needs are openly discussed?” Your goal in this kind of statement is to remind him that you are a separate PERSON with your own needs, feelings, and thoughts. You are not just a slave or a robot or a “wife” but a person and even if he doesn’t value you, you are going to value yourself. You do not have to be bullied into decisions that go against your Core values.
If you act as if he’s right all the time and entitled to act this way, your kiddos will get the picture that men get to have their way all the time that’s “normal.” Therefore, it’s important to speak truthfully to your children about things such as, “I think sometimes your father can be self-absorbed and unaware that you have your own plans. It’s okay to remind him that you can’t always accommodate him and stick to what you need to do for yourself.”
You say your husband is making some changes. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks about the person who lives in the spirit and one who lives in the flesh. Asking curious questions in a moment when your husband seems open or more in tune with God may open up a conversation worth having! When he is most negative or critical say, “You don’t seem to experience God’s joy or peace very much. Why do you think that is?”
Your words may not have an impact on him, yet God tells us that His words are powerful and don’t return void. They have the power to cut right to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Ask God to use His Word, your counseling sessions, and your commitment to truth to cause him to see how he is showing up with you in such critical, dismissive, and unhappy ways.
Lastly, don’t forget you do need life-giving relationships in your life, even if it’s not in your marriage. Seek out healthy, godly women who can encourage you, inspire you, love on you, pray for you and hold you accountable to be the kind of person you want to be while living in this difficult, disappointing, and destructive marriage.
Friend, How might walking into Micah 6:8 one step at a time, allow you to you experience life outside your comfort zone?
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